Five Strength Exercises Every Runner Needs To Do

When it comes to strength training a lot of runners have an “ain’t nobody got time for that” attitude, but the truth is you can become faster, stronger, and less prone to injury with just five strength exercises.

You don’t need to trade in your running shoes for a barbell (if you don’t want), carve out 20-30 minutes three times a week for a full body strength workout to see results. You can do these strength exercises for runners on your rest days from running, on an easy day when you run 30 minutes or less, or spend ten minutes here and there working in these exercises several times a week.

It doesn’t have have to take over your whole workout life. Do what you can when you can. Start with 10 minutes. It’s impressive when you realize that 10 minutes a day of consistent exercises can be the catalyst for a change in your strength training habits.

It’s essential for runners that are resistant to strength training to get the most out of their efforts. The last thing I want is for a runner to find some generic split body routine from Pinterest and waste their time on exercises that won’t help them improve in their preferred sport.

While there are certainly a lot more than five exercises that will benefit your running, these five will give you the most bang for your workout buck. I’ll admit it was challenging to narrow down to five so I cheated by including a few variations of each of these exercises that will benefit runners performance and longevity.


I am using a 20 lb weight for most of these exercises. You can use dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, or barbells for these moves.


Raise your hand if you sit a lot during the day. (Most of us). When we sit a lot, the Glute muscles can become weak or inactive and may not be firing when we need them, which can cause the incorrect muscles to take over. Inactive or weak muscles reinforce poor movement patterns that may lead to injuries. A bridge exercise is a great exercise to activate your Glutes before you go for a run.


A single leg bridge helps you train your Glutes independently. If one side is stronger than the other, the stronger side stays strong, and the weaker side stays weak. Imbalances can lead to injuries. Perform the reps on your weaker side first and match the number of reps on your stronger side.

single leg bridge.JPG


I’d argue that the deadlift is the king of all lower body exercises. When you strengthen the muscles on the back side of your lower body with a deadlift, you can improve running strength, form, and speed. The deadlift strengthens the same muscles we use to run. Muscles stabilize the joints; weak muscles can lead to joint pain or injuries.

Note that since this exercise works out the large muscles on the back of your legs, you likely can go much heavier on this exercise. Experiment to find the right weight for eight to twelve reps. If you feel like you could do 20 reps, then go with a heavier weight next set. If you feel fatigued towards the end of the rep range, that’s a good sign you are using the correct weight.


The single leg deadlift is one of the most effective runner-specific exercises. When you run, you repeatedly transfer all your body weight from one leg to the other. A single leg deadlift builds independent hip strength and balance so you can run stronger and longer.

single leg deadlift


When we run, we strengthen the muscles that move us forward. If we don’t also spend time to strengthen the muscles that move us laterally, we can become imbalanced. Runners need side-to-side movements to stay balanced and healthy. A banded lateral quarter squat and side lunge strengthens the Gluteus Medius, abductors and adductors (muscles on inside and outside of thigh).

banded side squat


Runners need not neglect their upper bodies. Push ups are the ideal upper body exercise for runners because they strengthen the chest, shoulders, and arms, and require core stability in one full body move. While a bench press will help you build a strong chest, a push up is superior for runners.

If you’re not strong enough (yet) to do a full push up, start with an incline push up. I prefer this over knee push up. The incline reduces the load to make them a bit easier, but you still utilize your core. It’s essential for runners to build a strong core.

incline pushups.JPG
incline pushups.JPG

Start at a high incline and go lower as you get stronger until you are on the ground. The kitchen counter can be a high incline and a workout bench a lower one.

pushup position
pushup low.JPG


When you push (like in a push up), you must pull to stay balanced. The push up works muscles on the front side of your upper body; you need to balance it with a pull exercise that works muscles on your back. A strong back will help you hold proper form, especially on long runs once you get tired, and power your stride.


Try these exercises next week and let me know how it goes! Start with one set of 8-12 reps of each exercise in a circuit fashion, then slowly add additional sets until you build up to three or four.

Did you like this post? Do you know someone who might benefit? It helps me when you share with your friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

5 strength exercises every runner needs to do. Save to your favorite Pinterest board for later!

5 strength exercises every runner needs to do. Save to your favorite Pinterest board for later!

Questions? I’d love to help.

Coach Lea

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